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A war of words: Iraq ten years on

Dr Zahera Harb examines the language and rhetoric of the Iraq war for the BBC World Service
by Ben

nullBBC World Service has published an interactive guide which explores the evolution of the language used by the US in Iraq during the last ten years.

The guide uses the insight and expertise of Dr Zahera Harb, from City's Department of Journalism, who provides analysis of how these terms were used and perceived by the Arab media.

'Iraq 2003-2013: The US rhetoric of war', which is now live on and on various language websites of BBC World Service, is based on the analysis of over 100 US government statements on Iraq and identifies key terms and phrases that shaped the way the conflict was reported.

By extracting these Iraq-related terms from official speeches and statements, the BBC traces the frequency of use by the US government. Iraq 2003-2013: The US rhetoric of war comments on the way some of these terms have reflected the evolution of the conflict and the country itself from both sides.

Dr Harb, said: "The Arab media is fragmented and would not have followed necessarily one line of coverage on Iraq. Generalisation over terms' usage or perceptions to all Arab media would have been difficult.

"However, Arab media outlets including state run media of countries that supported the initial intervention in 2003 later became critical of the role the Americans had played in Iraq. Terms like 'free Iraq', 'freedom', 'democracy' and 'success in Iraq' were critically questioned by many Arab media outlets."

The project lead, BBC World Service's Inma Gil, says: "The conflict in Iraq is probably the most documented one in history and we have seen that, over the years, certain words and expressions came to prominence and then faded out of the US official language as well as mainstream media headlines. This project gives our users an opportunity to explore the timeline of the conflict by focusing on the official language used to talk about it."

The research shows that what was a 'brutal regime' in 2003 became a 'sovereign government' by 2004, and a US 'partner' by 2011. These words have been embedded in an underlying rhetoric of terms such as 'terror', 'freedom' and 'democracy'.

The interactive guide has also been translated into Arabic, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian.

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